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25/01/2013

Updating Bereavement

Next week I will attend "Loss, Bereavement and Human Resilience in Israeli society" - a three days conference in Eilat, Israel, as a speaker in one of the sessions (website in Hebrew, document in English). 

While I'm reading the online booklet (Hebrew only, sorry) containing the abstracts of the many workshops, lectures, posters and symposiums taking place there, I am overcome by a powerful desire to physically grab these professionals, academics, personnel, clinicians, researchers, policy makers etc., by the lapels and shout at them: Wake up! - you have to stay updated if you want to remain relevant. 

The speakers divide the bereaved into many sub-groups: "Families who were subject to a euthanasia offense", "Bereaved siblings", "Bereaved parents", "Widows of the Defense Force", "Mothers of teenage orphans", "Bereaved girlfriends", "Orphans", "Widows of the Military system", "Orphans due to a terrorist attack", "Bereaved teenage siblings", "Bereaved mothers", "Families whose member committed suicide", "Grownups who lost both parents as teenagers due to a terrorist attack", "Parents who lost a son in war", etc. 

I understand the need to research and/or support each sub-group according to its needs, but there is one subject that connects all sub-groups and is relevant to them all (financially disadvantaged populations excluded, as they don't have computers nor Internet): all of these people will have to deal with the digital legacies left behind by the dead, and as the years progress, the volume of these legacies will only rise. 

The following image is by the Australian company Life insurance Finder, from their great 2012 infographics Step By Step Expert Guide To Protect Yourself Online Before You Die



How much of our history is digital? For people who are 65 years or older, 12%. For teenagers, we're already at 86%, and this data will rise as the younger generation, who grew up with a screen in front of them and a mouse and keyboard under their hands, will become adults. 

Which means that by now, all people who experience loss, grief and bereavement, regardless to which sub-group they belong to, will deal with digital legacies and the emotional, technical, ethical, philosophical and legal hardship and complications those bring. I worry that there is a disproportion between the need of such support and the awareness of the subject, not to mention the qualifications required (technical, spiritual, etc.) that are not yet acquired. 

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